This is a public service announcement via Kitty Benzar (caveat, I did not check on this, I’m assuming she’s correct here).
SENIOR PASS PRICE SKYROCKETING
On Tuesday December 6, in the lame duck session of Congress, the House passed by unanimous consent a bill (HR 4680) that will eliminate the $10 lifetime Senior Pass (formerly Golden Age Pass) which has been available to citizens and permanent residents age 62 and older since 1965.
In the early hours of Saturday morning December 10, in a nearly empty Senate chamber – most members having already left for the holidays – the Senate approved the House bill by unanimous consent
The bill is now on its way to the President. He is nearly certain to sign it.
The lifetime pass will track with the price of the annual America the Beautiful Pass. That price is currently $80 but can be changed at any time by the federal land management agencies, without further legislation.
For those who prefer an installment plan, a new “Senior Annual” pass will also be established at a price of $20, good for one year from the date of purchase. Four consecutive Senior Annual passes can be exchanged for a lifetime pass.
While there have been a multitude of bills introduced (and programs authorized) aimed at giving new groups free or reduced-cost access to the public lands – 4th Graders, military families, those with disabilities, veterans, volunteers – it is difficult to understand why Congress has taken this opportunity to reduce a long-standing benefit to seniors. The $20-$35 million in anticipated additional revenue (depending on whose estimate you choose) will make little dent in the Park Service’s claimed maintenance backlog of $12 BILLION.
All of this is being done in the guise of celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service, although why making the Parks more expensive to visit constitutes a “celebration” remains a mystery.
The benefits of the Senior Pass include entrance to all National Parks and Wildlife Refuges that charge entrance fees, for the passholder and everyone accompanying them in the same vehicle. Where an NPS unit or a Refuge charges a per-person fee, the passholder can bring in three companions age 16 or older. (Those under age 16 are free anyway.) The Senior Pass also covers Standard Amenity Fees at most Forest Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, and Army Corps of Engineers sites. In addition, Senior passholders are entitled to a 50% discount on campground fees for the site they occupy, including any younger friends and family members who accompany them.
These benefits are grandfathered- (and grandmothered-) in for existing passholders. So if you have attained the age of 62 and have not yet purchased your lifetime Senior Pass, you should do it IMMEDIATELY. Passes are sold at National Parks, Forest Service, BLM and Bureau of Reclamation offices, National Wildlife Refuges, and Army Corps of Engineers recreation sites. Passes can be purchased online at the USGS Store, but online purchases will incur a $10 service charge in addition to the (for now) $10 price of the pass. Your pass is good for the rest of your life unless lost or stolen. Many people buy an extra to keep in a safe place. Doing so at this time is something to consider because buying a replacement in the future could cost you much more.
It will likely take some time for the agencies to update their pass sales locations with the new pricing structure, so if you are close to turning 62 you should act as soon as you are eligible and you may be able to slide in under the wire.